Deconstructing Terrorism: Truck Attacks – A Frightening Tool of Terror With A History

Nice, France

By Peter Bergen

It used to be that we worried about truck bombs. Now we have to worry about trucks used as weapons.

The tactic has been adopted by jihadist terrorists in the West, including in the United States, but fortunately the lethality of these attacks has been relatively low — until Friday’s attack in Nice that has killed at least 84.

The tactic has been a long time coming.

Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch encouraged its recruits in the West in its 2010 webzine, Inspire, to use trucks as a weapon. An article headlined “The Ultimate Mowing Machine” called for deploying a pickup truck as a “mowing machine, not to mow grass but mow down the enemies of Allah.”

In September 2014, an ISIS spokesman similarly encouraged such attacks, saying of ISIS’ enemies, “run him over with your car.”

A month later, on October 20, 2014 Canadian Martin Rouleau Couture, who had traveled to Turkey in what appears to have been an unsuccessful attempt to join ISIS in neighboring Syria, ran over two soldiers in Quebec, killing one and injuring another.

Also in 2014, there were two such car attacks in France in the cities of Nantes and Dijon, though the motives of the attackers, one of whom shouted “Allah Akbar!” after one of the attacks, are murky. In both cases the assailants had long histories of mental illness, according to the BBC.

The tactic has also been used in the United States. In 2006, Mohammed Taheri-azar, an American-Iranian,drove an SUV into an area crowded with students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He later said that that the United States government had been “killing his people across the sea” and he was taking revenge and he was “thankful for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah.” Luckily the attack killed no one but it did injure nine.

A year later, a pair of British terrorists opposed to the Iraq war rammed their Jeep into the arrivals area of Glasgow Airport, but killed no one.

We don’t know enough yet to say what prompted the Nice attack. But what the the attack in Nice shows is that we are now in an era when lone terrorists are becoming increasingly lethal.

Recall the attack at the Orlando nightclub that killed 49 in June carried out by a single gunman, Omar Mateen.

Until Thursday the most lethal terrorist attack in the West carried out by a lone terrorist was by Anders Breivik, a Norwegian neo-Nazi who killed 77 people in 2011.

The death toll in the Nice attack already stands at 84, making the Nice attack the deadliest ever attack carried out by a lone terrorist in the West.

(Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City with a truck bomb in 1995, but he was aided in every respect of the attack by co-conspirator Terry Nichols who is now serving a life term. There is no indication so far that the Nice attacker operated as part of a terrorist group.)

This will have important implications for how we conceive of the danger of lone terrorists in the West going forward. Law enforcement authorities in the States and other Western countries will have to consider the vulnerabilities to vehicular attacks of large, packed crowds of the kind that we saw jamming the waterfront in Nice celebrating their national holiday on Thursday.

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Espionage Files: The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of

Ana Montes

Programming note: Explore untold stories of American spies: CNN Original Series “Declassified” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT only on CNN.

(CNN)She put American combat troops in harm’s way, betrayed her own people and handed over so many secrets that experts say the U.S. may never know the full extent of the damage.

Ana Montes was the Queen of Cuba, an American who from 1985 to the September 11, 2001 attacks handed over U.S. military secrets to Havana while working as a top analyst for the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.

But despite her crimes, Montes remains largely unknown.

You might not think Cuba could do much harm to a superpower like the U.S., said retired DIA official Chris Simmons, appearing on CNN’s “Declassified.”

But you’d be wrong.

The threat increases, he said, when Havana goes on to sell those U.S. military secrets to Montes’ anger about U.S. foreign policy complicated her relationships and drew the attention of Cubans who enticed her to turn her back on friends, family and her own country.

Montes’ anger about U.S. foreign policy complicated her relationships and drew the attention of Cubans who enticed her to turn her back on friends, family and her own country.

The fascinating spycraft that surfaced from her case offers a rare glimpse into the invisible world of espionage, where some experts believe there could be as many as 100,000 foreign agents working inside the U.S.

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History of Terrorism: From Russia With Hate


By Peter Bergen

The news that the Istanbul attack was carried out by a Russian and citizens of Central Asian states that were once part of the Soviet Union might surprise those who have hitherto seen the group as a collection of mostly Arab fighters with a large Western European contingent.

Yet in fact, Russian citizens — many of whom are Chechens or Dagestanis from the largely Muslim North Caucasus region of Russia — are the largest group of foot soldiers in ISIS from a non-Muslim majority country, and they have played key roles in the group.

According to Turkish officials the attack at Istanbul airport was carried out by terrorists from Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan and was planned by ISIS’s leadership. The Soufan Group, a New York-based intelligence consulting firm that tracks “foreign fighters” who have joined ISIS, estimates that 2,400 Russians have traveled to Syria. It placed the number of fighters from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan at 500 each.

In October, Russian President Vladimir Putin estimated the number of fighters who had left for Syria from Russia and the former Soviet republics at 5,000 to 7,000.

Individuals from the former Soviet republics have risen to the leadership ranks in ISIS. The most well known is Omar Shishani, killed in an American airstrike earlier this year, was an ethnic Chechen who had a $5 million U.S. reward on his head at the time of his death. He was the group’s commander in northern Syria and he also oversaw the prison in ISIS’s de facto Syrian capital, Raqqa, in which the terrorist group held foreign hostages.

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U.S. Army Changing Dog Tags For First Time In 40 Years


For the first time in 40 years, the U.S. Army is making changes to a century-old piece of hardware, dog tags, the identification implements that hang around each soldier’s neck.

For a low-tech thing like the aluminum dog tag, the reason for the change is decidedly high-tech, the threat of identity theft. On the new dog tags, the service member’s Social Security number will be replaced with a randomly-generated, 10-digit Department of Defense identification number.

“If you find a pair of lost ID tags you can pretty much do anything with that person’s identity because you now have their blood type, their religion, you have their social, and you have their name. The only thing missing is their birth date and you can usually get that by Googling a person,” Michael Klemowski, Soldiers Programs Branch chief, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, said in an Army press release.

The change was mandated in 2007, but it has taken the military this long to replace the Social Security number with the 10-digit idea number through a number of systems, Klemowski said.

While identity theft may be among the most impersonal of crimes, the dog tags are anything but that.

“Dog tags are highly personal items to warriors of every service and to their families as well,” says a Library of Congress tribute to the dog tag produced in 2012. “The tag itself individualizes the human being who wears it, despite his or her role as a small part of a huge and faceless organization. While the armed forces demand obedience and duty to a higher cause, dog tags, hanging under service members’ shirts and close to their chests, remind them of their individuality.”

The tags became part of the Army field kit shortly before World War I. By July 1916, the Army was issuing two of the tags to each soldier, one that would stay with the remains of those lost in battle and one that would go to the burial unit, according to the Armed Forces History Museum.

The tags “bring comfort and help calm the fears of soldiers facing death,” the Library of Congress tribute says, allowing them to know they would not be forgotten or become an unknown casualty.

Klemowski said the change would not be immediate for all soldiers.

“We are focusing first on the personnel who are going to deploy. If a soldier is going to deploy, they are the first ones that need to have the new ID tags,” he said in the Army release.

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Crusader Corner: Boko Haram Female Suicide Bomber Kills 58 in Nigerian “Safe Haven”

Security officers stand near abandoned items at the scene of a blast in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, on July 24, 2014. At least one person was killed and eight other people injured when a blast ripped through a crowded bus station in Kano, northern Nigeria, police and witnesses said today. The explosion happened at about 3:00pm (1400 GMT) at the New Motor Park in the predominantly Christian Sabon Gari neighbourhood, which has previously been targeted by Boko Haram militants. AFP PHOTO / Aminu ABUBAKAR


A camp that was supposed to be a shelter from terrorism and violence instead became an instant death zone for dozens in Nigeria this week.

At least 58 people were killed and another 78 injured when two female bombers detonated their suicide vests, according to emergency relief officials. The victims were in a camp for people who had been displaced by Boko Haram violence in Nigeria’s Borno State.

As horrendous as the attack was, it could have been worse. One of the bombers backed out at the last minute.

“There were three female bombers who entered the camp around 6:30 a.m. (local time) disguised as displaced persons. Two of them set off their explosives in the camp while the third refused after realizing her parents and siblings were in the camp,” said Satomi Alhaji Ahmed, head of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency.

The bombers struck Tuesday at the camp in the town of Dikwa, Ahmed said. Dikwa is in northeastern Nigeria, near the border with Cameroon.

More than 53,000 people fleeing Boko Haram attacks from six districts are sheltering under military protection.

Warnings of more bombers on the way

The suspect confessed she and the two bombers were sent by Boko Haram to attack the camp, warning more bombers were on their way, Ahmed said.

“She told the military officers who interrogated her that they were among several women detailed by Boko Haram to attack the camp. She warned more attacks were underway as the female bombers would sneak into the camp in different guises,” Ahmed said.

The attacks are believed to be reprisals for the recent military offensive against Boko Haram in strongholds along the border with Cameroon, a military source said.

Last week, troops raided the three Boko Haram strongholds, killing more than 100 fighters and freeing more than 1,000 people — including more than 100 women kidnapped and used as sex slaves by the insurgents, said the military source on anonymity.

The source said the freed women were brought to the Dikwa camp and that Boko Haram terrorists “are pained by that, and hence their decision to send in suicide bombers in revenge.

A growing legacy of terror and death

Boko Haram is a militant Islamic group working out of Nigeria and in the border areas of Chad and Cameroon; its purpose is to institute Sharia, or Islamic, law. Boko Haram militants mainly inhabit areas in the northern states of Nigeria, including Borno.

The group has received international condemnation and notoriety for its brutality and mass kidnappings of women and girls.

On Saturday, motorcycle-riding militants from Boko Haram riding at night killed 65 people in a raid.